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Potential Role of Gut Microbiota in ALS Pathogenesis and Possible Novel Therapeutic Strategies

Mazzini, Letizia, MD*; Mogna, Luca, MD; De Marchi, Fabiola, MD*; Amoruso, Angela, MD; Pane, Marco, MD; Aloisio, Irene, MD; Cionci, Nicole Bozzi, MD; Gaggìa, Francesca, MD; Lucenti, Ausiliatrice, MD*; Bersano, Enrica, MD*; Cantello, Roberto, MD*; Di Gioia, Diana, MD; Mogna, Giovanni§

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: November/December 2018 - Volume 52 - Issue - p S68–S70
doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001042

Background: Recent preclinical studies suggest that dysfunction of gastrointestinal tract may play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) pathogenesis through a modification of the gut microbiota brain axis. Our study is the first focused on microbiota analysis in ALS patients.

Aim: Our aim was to study the main human gut microbial groups and the overall microbial diversity in ALS and healthy subjects. Moreover we have examined the influence of a treatment with a specific bacteriotherapy composed of Lactobacillus strains (Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarius) acting on the gastrointestinal barrier.

Methods: We enrolled 50 ALS patients and 50 healthy controls, matched for sex, age, and origin. Fecal samples were used for total genomic DNA extraction. Enterobacteria, Bifidobacterium spp., Lactobacillus spp., Clostridium sensu stricto, Escherichia coli and yeast were quantified using quantitative polymerase chain reaction approach. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analyses were performed to investigate total eubacteria and yeasts populations. Patients were randomized to double-blind treatment either with microorganisms or placebo for 6 months and monitored for clinical progression and microbiota composition.

Results: The comparison between ALS subjects and healthy group revealed a variation in the intestinal microbial composition with a higher abundance of E. coli and enterobacteria and a low abundance of total yeast in patients. Polymerase chain reaction denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis showed a cluster distinction between the bacterial profiles of ALS patients and the healthy subjects. The complexity of the profiles in both cases may indicate that a real dysbiosis status is not evident in the ALS patients although differences between healthy and patients exist. The effects of the progression of the disease and of the bacteriotherapy on the bacterial and yeast populations are currently in progress.

Conclusions: Our preliminary results confirm that there is a difference in the microbiota profile in ALS patients.

*Department of Neurology and ALS Centre, University of Novara



Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Supported in parts by the Probiotical S.p.A., Novara, Italy.

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Address correspondence to: Fabiola De Marchi, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Eastern Piedmont, Corso Mazzini 18, Novara 28100, Italy (e-mail:

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.